The Glory of the Cross (1) -- By: Pieter DeVries
PRJ 3:1 (January 2011) p. 18
The Glory of the Cross (1)
The British philosopher A. J. Ayer once summarized his objections to the Christian faith by singling out the doctrines of original sin and the vicarious suffering and death of Christ. There is an intimate connection between both doctrines. Since man cannot redeem himself, the Son of God, as man, surrendered Himself unto death. Atonement by the blood of Jesus Christ belongs to the essence of the Christian faith. Such is the testimony of the church’s creeds. Can this confession be substantiated in light of Scripture? What do the Scriptures have to say about the atonement? Availing myself of a number of works that have been published during the last few years, I wish to present some exegetical considerations in this first installment. In the second installment, I will focus on how the significance of the cross of Christ has been addressed throughout the history of the Christian church.
Atonement in the Pentateuch
The laws of the Pentateuch do not belong to the most popular portions of Scripture. Many a reader of the Bible does not sufficiently realize that the cross of Christ, divorced from the legislation of the Pentateuch, is incomprehensible. It is against the background of this legislation that the New Testament can speak of Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
The Old Testament sanctuary was a reflection of the nature, reputation, and authority of the LORD. The sins of the people of Israel were incompatible with His justice. For the Lord to dwell continually in the midst of His people, His justice had to be vindicated repeatedly. This was particularly the case on the great Day of Atonement, which provided the people with an affirmation that forgiveness had been granted them. The fact that the Law of Moses uses various
PRJ 3:1 (January 2011) p. 19
words to designate sin (e.g., transgression, unrighteousness, uncleanness) is one of the indications that Israel (taking her lead from the Lord Himself) took sin seriously. The Mosaic laws make it clear to us that atonement and forgiveness of sin will never become a reality apart from confession of sin and, ultimately, restitution for the transgression committed.
Leviticus 17:11 is a key text in the Pentateuch. Does the atonement referred to there come about by means of the soul (i.e., life), or for and/or instead of the soul? External to the context of the atonement, the preposition that precedes the nouns life or soul also has the meaning of instead of or on behalf of. This is evident, for instance, in Genesis 29:18, where Jacob says that he ha...
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